Eco-friendly party bags mean less plastic, less stuff and a more considered approach to kids party favours. Many places around the world are fighting the war on plastic waste by banning things like single-use plastic bags. Yet when it comes to the end of a kids’ birthday party, it’s still very common for the guests to be handed plastic party bags filled with plastic-wrapped sweets and plastic toys.
So how can we still give kids the pleasure of handing out and receiving party bags, but with a more environmentally friendly approach?
Ideally, eco-friendly party bags will be made from materials that can be reused or recycled.
- Paper Bags — Most party suppliers nowadays have a paper bag option. Large stores like Spotlight, Kmart, Target and Big W all sell paper loot bags. If you buy plain bags, you can even get the party boy or girl to help decorate them and add guests’ names, or you can get the party guests to do this as a craft activity during the party.
- Fabric Bags — Another option is fabric bags, which are often muslin or burlap bags with a drawstring top. The great thing about these bags is that they’re also reusable. Again, most stores carry this option. Alternatively, you can make your own by simply cutting circles of fabric, filling them with treats and then gathering up the edges and tying around the top with ribbon.
- Paper Cups — A ‘party bag’ doesn’t necessarily have to be a bag in order to keep the kids happy. A party cup could be just as good! You can buy patterned paper cups or plain ones and decorate them at home or as a craft activity during the party.
- Noodle Boxes — Cardboard noodle boxes can make great party favour containers. Many of the big shops now offer coloured ones rather than just the plain white, so they don’t have to seem boring.
The Sweet Treats
It is possible to include some food treats without purchasing the typical plastic wrapped sugary lollies. Here are some alternatives that you can buy or make yourself. You can wrap them using paper napkins with string ties, little cardboard boxes, mini beeswax wraps or reusable containers that form part of the kids’ gift.
- Cupcakes. Growing in popularity is a cupcake decorating station. At the end of the party the cupcakes are wrapped up and handed out as favours.
- Nut-free Trail Mix — You can buy this or make your own. This doesn’t have to be a boring health food option! You can add sweet treats too, like mini marshmallows, pretzels, M&Ms, etc. The key is just to buy items in bulk rather than individually wrapped. This also means you are buying quality lollies, which means they are more likely to be enjoyed. I am yet to see a child eat the mini lolly version of the hamburger you can get from dollar stores.
- Cookies — Cookies are great treats that you can buy in bulk to avoid too much plastic wrapping, or even better, make at home. Cookie making and decorating could even be a fun activity for the kids to do at the party!
- Popcorn —Popcorn is super easy to make at home, or can be bought in large bags readymade. It’s a great snack that doesn’t have to be an unhealthy option.
Cheap plastic toys often break very easily. We all know the type — flimsy plastic yo-yos that aren’t heavy enough to work, little plastic cars that fall to pieces, novelty sunglasses that soon lose their arms, whistles or mini plastic recorders that don’t make much sound. After the initial buzz of receiving the fun, brightly coloured toys, the kids are usually left disappointed when their gifts suddenly break and end up straight in the recycling bin. Here are some fun alternatives!
- Small Wooden Toys — There many little wooden items available online and in shops that make for really beautiful party favours. Ideas that are available in wooden gifts include bead bracelets, biff bats, yo-yos, toy vehicles, keyrings, spinning tops, fans, jigsaws, puzzles, toy animals, door signs, and so on. Wooden toys have a longer life span than their plastic counterparts making for a great eco-friendly party bag alternative.
- Finger Puppets —Little felt or woollen finger puppets are great toys for younger kids and don’t cost too much if you buy in bulk.
- Playing Cards — How about a pack or playing cards that kids can enjoy for years afterwards?
- Marbles — A long-loved traditional game, glass marbles are fun to play with and make great collectables. Just be careful not to give to younger kids for whom they could be a choking hazard.
- Die-cast Cars — These cars are extremely hardy and durable and can be played with for years. Just stock up when they’re on sale or buy in bulk so they’re not too expensive.
- DIY wizard and fairy wands – Get creative and make your own wizard wands or fairy wands
- Playdough — Playdough is a great play item for kids of any age, and you don’t need to buy it in little plastic containers. We have heaps of recipes you can try, to suit any occasion, with everything from super soft playdough and non-cooking play dough to surprise colour or smelly jelly play dough! Add some edible sparkles to the mix (to keep it eco-friendly).
When it comes to plastic-free party bags, craft supplies are must-give items! They’re fun, eco-friendly and really useful!
- Stationery — We love giving stationery items in party bags. Often we buy pencils, pens, crayons, chalk, and so on in bulk, and put a few items in each bag. Other items such as mini-notebooks and novelty rubbers make fun favours. Also look out for awesome wooden items, like wooden rulers, wooden paperclips, and so on.
- Seeds — You can go extra green by giving kids some seeds to plant. A simple pack of seeds to grow their own sunflowers or herbs would be a nice easy option. You could even have eggshells filled with potting mix and grass seeds, with faces drawn on, to create little funny hairy heads. The kids could even make their own at the party. Or head to your local garden centre for great pre-prepared options.
- Foodie Mix — Why not send kids home with their own mix of pre-prepared ingredients so they can make something yummy. Our favourite ideas are cookie dough, hot chocolate mix or mug cake mix. Basically, anything that can be prepared and mixed in advance works well. You can save up old jars to sterilise and use for this. Or even present it in a mug instead of a party bag, which the kids can then keep as their main gift.
- Child-made Favours — These are party favours and a great party activity rolled into one! The kids make their own party favours at the party. Fun options include bracelets, make and decorate their own fabric party bags, decorate a mini plant pot and add seeds, decorate biscuits, and so on.
For other gift options, why not consider some of the following?
- Hair Accessories — There are plenty of nice, non-plastic hair accessories that you can buy in bulk and then share between the party bags. They’re fun and attractive and useful too.
- Books — Look out for mini story books or set boxes of little books (e.g. Mr Men books) on special offer. This can be a great alternative to lots of little toys as a party favour.
- Nature Items — Many kids love collecting nature items, like gemstones, shells and other items. Or you could set up a rock painting station as a cool party activity.
- Reusable Items — To help other families reduce their use of single-use plastics, why not consider giving some eco-friendly alternatives in party bags. Things like reusable straws or reusable sandwich wraps or snack pockets would make a lovely gift.
Other Things to Avoid
As well as avoiding plastic bags, wrappers and toys, we can also be careful about other items that are common party favours. Eco-friendly party bags should never contain the following items. The first one we know you will think? why? It is not a helium balloon but from experience many party bag balloons are never blown up and end up as land fill, so why not provide alternatives that can be reused or recycled?
- Balloons — Balloons are often made out of rubber or foil-coated plastic and are very bad for the environment, especially to wildlife and marine life. In Queensland, releasing balloons into the environment (either accidentally or on purpose) is considered littering, which is unlawful and faces penalties. (You can read more here.)
- Glitter — While glitter may look like sparkly fairy dust, it is actually millions of tiny pieces of plastic. These microplastics easily find their way into waterways and oceans, where they can build up in marine life and cause serious issues throughout the food chain.